John Singer Sargent's "Vernon Lee"   (Frontpage)  (Thumbnail Index)  (What's New)

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Vernon Lee (Violet Paget) 
Violet Paget (Vernon Lee)
Tate Gallery, London
Oil on canvas 
53.7 x 43.2 cm (20 x 16 in.)
Bequeathed by Miss Vernon Lee 
through Miss Cooper Willis 1935

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Vernon Lee, was a pen name for Violet Paget (1856-1935). She was a childhood friend of John Sargent, after growing up together they both, it appears, were involved in the same art community. She was a prolific novelist, essayist and critic, and  had written at least one book about the nature of beauty in Art. 

Vernon was close to John and his sister when they were growing up. Her parent's, like Sargent's, were expatriate Americans living and traveling around Europe. She was especially close during the Salon of 1884, due to the letters they exchanged and the recollection of being with him when frustrated over the painting of Madame Gautreau.

Vernon's personal account of John, comes as the last chapter in the book -- sort of an epilogue. John painted her once in 1881 and sketched her on a couple of other occasions -- what a wonderful man he was. She says that John detested talking about his paintings in his mature life but would talk for hours about others or of music, theater and other art forms and she says she loved to listen. 

Much of her understanding of John's ideas of his own art comes mostly from earlier adulthood and just the yearly contact of a lifetime of correspondence with he and his sister. As life took them on their journey they were not as close in later life. She says she somewhat regrets not knowing him even closer. Still, she says she has had the pleasure to see the beauty in the world, as we all can, through his eyes in his paintings.



John Singer Sargent, An Exhibition -- Whitney Museum, NY & The Art Institute of Chicago 1986-1987

Sargent in Italy, 2002-2003


Subject: How about Vernon Lee?
From: Daniel Wallace Maze 
<xa nd> 
Date: Mon, 24 Feb 2003 

Did Vernon Lee keep a diary where she might of made mention of [of any possible relationship]? She may have been the only person both to have known and written about Sargent’s sexual experiences. 


By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2004 all rights reserved
Created 10/4/2001